Danny Welbeck was finally having the season the Gunners’ were hoping for since his arrival from Manchester United back in 2014. But a dreadful ankle injury has now ruled him out for months and the rumours of Lille ace Nicolas Pepe, viewed as an alternative to the Three Lions international, has now been dismissed by club president Gerard Lopez at least for the winter window.
Welbeck’s contract runs out at the end of the ongoing term and the 27-year-old attacker seems to have played his last match in Arsenal colours after breaking his ankle against Sporting Lisbon in a Europa League encounter. He netted 5 goals across all competitions under Unai Emery and was being utilized as a utility resource in their attacking third.
Although there is plenty of flair high up the pitch, a prolific wide attacker down the right is a priority as they require someone on a par with Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling, Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, Xherdan Shaqiri and Chelsea’s Willian, Pedro. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been largely disappointing as a right winger whereas Mesut Ozil suits more centrally than the wide. Alex Iwobi has been emphatic so far this season but the addition of Pepe would have increased depth, strength and quality needed to reclaim a place in the prestigious Champions League competition.
The 23-year-old French-born Ivorian international has been instrumental in Lille’s upsurge who are currently placed second in the league behind Paris St-Germain. He is scintillating down the right flank having scored eight times, assisted six goals and also won a couple of penalties in 14 outings. His strong left foot, pace and dribbling traits should fit him in Emery’s brand of football and the player, too, is relishing the rumours linking him with European big guns.
“All are great clubs. I was not aware of these rumours, although it is good.”
Lopez, however, has cooled down the talks and claimed any offer will be turned down in January even if it’s hefty and fascinating.
“What if Barcelona gives me 100 million euros by Pépé? He will not leave this winter. I want him to continue here, we want him to stay, he wants to stay.”
This might have been a blow for the North Londoners in pursuit of the young sensation, but the club must keep chasing Pepe to resolve their winger conundrum. He will be a massive influence even if recruited next summer as his flair would help the Gunners to succeed in the long run.